Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deliberate deafness: the Conservatives and Food Banks

"Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered." (Proverbs 21:13)

During the election campaign David Cameron pretended not to know how many people were using food banks in the UK. At least, I hope he was pretending, and actually did know the answer, because any Prime Minister that doesn't know what's happening with the most vulnerable in his society should resign and make way for someone who does.

I'm starting to wonder though. It's almost as if the Conservatives are choosing not to know about food banks. Priti Patel at the DWP claimed in Parliament that 'there is no robust evidence that directly links benefit sanctions and food bank use'. That's apart from the evidence provided by the University of Oxford, the Trussell Trust, Oxfam, the Church of England etc. The evidence is there, so has the government not seen it, or having seen it, are they incapable of accepting it?

The DWP itself has been keeping the Trussell Trust at arms length.  Despite government rhetoric about helping the poor through welfare or justice reforms, it seems odd that they wouldn't want to engage with an organisation that sees nearly a million people every year who can't afford to eat. You can almost see David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith sticking their fingers in their ears and going 'la la la' very loudly whenever food banks are mentioned.

This is all too human. We're well practiced at blocking out inconvenient truths, which don't fit the world the way we've got used to seeing it, or the way we want to see it. The truth sets us free - and in the case of poverty, would set a lot of people free if only the government were minded to see it. But it may also involve admitting that we are wrong. Humility and repentance are costly, but I'd rather have politicians eating their words than thousands of people eating nothing.

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